“We are here to shine. We are precious stars.”
These words from a young person in LIA’s running club in Kisumu, Kenya are more than the name on the back of their group’s shirts. They also capture what restored dignity looks like in the life of a vulnerable child. At Life In Abundance, we believe that young people have the potential to be “blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” As Paul says in this Philippians 2 passage, they can shine “like stars in the sky” as they hold firmly to the word of life.
Youth running clubs, an initiative we’ve tested for a few years that has recently launched in seven of our program countries, is one way LIA is encouraging young people in poor communities to live up to their potential.
This program is currently taking place in 23 communities across Africa and the Caribbean, impacting over 790 young people. Providing a safe space to enjoy friendship and exercise, while being coached by local church and community leaders, running club is one way of caring for orphans and vulnerable children and sharing hope for the future.
One young captain says, “I am happy to interact with others here. We learn a lot and keep fit. It’s better than what we do in school!” While many students are still currently unable to attend school because of the pandemic and mental health issues are on the rise for these young ones, running club is positively engaging the youth throughout this unstable time.
It is also giving leaders new insight into the communities they serve and relationships with more families in need. One pastor we partner with says, “Through this, we will be able to know and understand how families are doing. Adults never share challenges of their families, but children do!”
Besides impacting the present, these clubs are an investment we know will last for years to come as the runners grow up knowing their worth and becoming leaders of healthy change in their families, communities, and nations. As Coach Billy says, “This is a way of impacting the future generation and I love doing it.”
Besides running, one activity our LIA running clubs do together is make necklaces. These are not just fun beading projects, but serve as visual reminders of some of the main topics running club coaches teach the youth about when they meet.